Everclear's Sparkle and Inevitable Fade
J. Gordon
9/27/2008 11:30:06 AM

Once upon a time, in the mid-1990s, there was a three-piece band from Portland, Oregon called Everclear. And sure, singer Art Alexakis talked through his songs more than he sang them. And sure, they relied on that same guitar trick in 90 percent of their stuff. But Everclear had guts, and lyrics, and a raw passion that transcended so much of the radio bullshit. To hear a song like “Summerland” or “The Twistinside” was to hurt in the most extraordinary way. So, when we heard that Everclear was doing a free concert for Taste of St. Louis, we were there.

Art Alexakis, now 46, is still looking good. Armed with a little more ink and muscle than he wore in the 90s, he greeted the diverse crowd with “Everything to Everyone,” while simultaneously trying his best to get a good ole-fashioned moshpit going (no luck, save for a few moments of crowd jumping). The three-piece band had grown into a five-piece, and original members Greg Eklund (drums) and Craig Montoya (guitar) were gone-- which was kind of a bummer (they were super nice guys, if you ever had the chance to meet them). Next up was “Amphetamine.” The weather that night was perfect, things were pretty cool, but despite the song’s title, the energy was a little low. Probably saving it up for all those Sparkle and Fade tracks, we thought hopefully.

“Father of Mine” came next, which Alexakis dedicated to Barack O’Bama, someone he “wished was his best friend.” Meanwhile, I relived the night Alexakis pulled my then-five-year-old son, Ross, on stage at the Side Door and sang that song straight to him. “Father of Mine” is still great, it still has heart, but, maybe because Art had done it so much since then, it was like he was sleeping through it. And so were we.

But nothing could fuck up “Heroin Girl,” right? I mean, come on! The guitar was there. The words were the same. But Art? Where was he? How could he tell that story, getting to the lines, “Just another overdose,” and not make us feel it? There was no screaming. There was no anger. There was no sadness. “Heroin Girl” flat-lined.

The show went downhill from there. Something compelled them to do a cheesy acoustic cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.” After watching hundreds of drunken 40-somethings singing sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-de-da, all that can be said is that no one should do that song again. The “Heroin Girl” lyrics, “I’m losin’ myself in a white trash hell” were never more appropriate. And what did he follow it up with? A terrible cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Girl with the Faraway Eyes.”

Alexakis bantered with the crowd, teasing St. Louis about not having a team in the play-offs, before going into full-on attack of Sarah Palin. And that was a drag because no matter how you feel about politics, no matter which side you’re on, you come to a rock show to get away from that shit. You come to a rock show to have fun when the world is falling down around you. You come to a rock show to get away from the fucking stock market, and divided issues, and attacking campaign commercials. Who needs a reminder of how much things suck? Who wants to see their musical heroes take on the even more false roles of politicians? Not me. Give me “Electra Made Me Blind,” dammit.

The politics continued until Art started picking a fight with someone in the audience, saying, “Don't boo me, fucking Republican, go back to Kansas.” The next songs were the mildly catchy, low-emotion, post-Sparkle and Fade songs, “AM Radio,” “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” and “Wonderful.” They got around to the expected “Santa Monica” –which sucked too—and it was at this moment that I realized: Fuck. The 90s are indeed gone. Entirely.

An encore brought them back out to do the best songs of the night, “So Much For The Afterglow,” “You Make Me Feel Like A Whore” (which husband Tom reworded to, ‘You make it feel like a chore’), and “I Will Buy You A New Life,” which Alexakis somehow introduced as the true American dream, what it means to be fully American and living in the present, which felt kinda awful. Which definition of ‘present’ did he mean?

And then, all the most horrible, pathetic and sad elements of the night culminated in a second encore: a cover of Tommy Tutone’s “Jenny (867-5309)” with about 50 dancing girls plus Beatle Bob invited up on the stage. Art spouted some of the stupidest, most sexist, idiotic dribble of the night. “Just shut up and dance, girls!” he yelled. “I don’t care how pretty you are. I’ve been married to supermodels. I’ve been married three times. A girl’s gotta know when to listen to her man, shut up and dance!”

Who is this man? This person who I once respected so much as a musician and artist? A parent and a person? Art Alexakis: you oughtta feel like a whore.

I’m gonna go play “Summerland” about a hundred times now, and pretend this never happened.


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